Chairman of the Government House Projects Committee under Governor Rochas Okorocha and former Principal Secretary to the former governor, Dr. Paschal Obi has told Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Contracts awarded between 2011 and 2019 that a contractor awarded the project merely designated as ‘Sundry Capital Project’ at Area K World Bank, Owerri absconded with money paid to him without executing the $110 million (N39.6 billion) project.
At the last sitting of the Judicial Commission, Obi, who also signed the contract award letter without the contractor counter-signing the contract agreement, disclosed that the contractor bolted with the funds given to him for the project without executing the contract.
He also disclosed that the Owerri community stopped the project from takeoff following a suit against the contractor over the project by the government.
Obi, who is now a federal legislator, representing Ideato North and Ideato South Federal Constituency expressed surprise that most of the contracts awarded by the Okorocha administration did not have fully signed contract agreements.
The panelists observed from the piles of documents tendered by Obi that most of the major contracts awarded under the Okorocha administration did not have contract agreements duly executed by the government and the contractors yet contract sums were fully paid.
The commission also observed that some of the contracts running into billions of naira were not documented and had no records despite their values being in billions while others were fully paid for without the contracts being executed.
Answering questions, Obi, who personally signed the contracts as the chairman of the Government House Task Force Committee on Projects, expressed surprise that the contractors did not sign contract agreements and still received payments from his office.
He disclosed that the Task Force committee on projects headed by him literally took the place of the State Tenders Board.
According to him, as the man in charge of the award of contracts, he signed his own column of the contact agreements and sent same to the office of the Secretary of the Task Force to ensure every contractor signed their own before they were paid mobilization fees.
On why the sum of N650 million each was paid for construction of new ministries of transport and Lands without the contract being awarded while the buildings could not be found anywhere in the state, the witness said he was not in a position to know the projects executed because he was not in charge of project inspection.
Obi also disclosed that it was not his duty to inspect projects as former Governor Rochas Okorocha was in charge of projects inspection and by inference, may have answers for the question.
Obi again expressed surprise and had no definite explanations for contracts like the internal roads in Ihitte Uboma local government area and a project designated as ‘Sunrise Park which were not found in any file as contracts awarded, despite billions of naira paid for them.
The commission also observed that in January 2013, at the recommendation of a Committee led by the then Secretary to the State Government, a contract was awarded for the construction of Egbeada-Afor Umuaka Road at the cost of N2.4 billion but was in a space of two weeks, unilaterally cancelled and rewarded to another contractor at the cost of N3.6 billion by Dr. Paschal Obi.
Obi explained that he was a civil servant at the time and was acting under the instructions of the then governor.
He, however, noted that there were new bills of quantity from another contractor that jerked up the price.
It was equally observed that the contract for the new state High Court Complex was awarded in three different titles – Justice Oputa High Court Complex; Imo State Judiciary Headquarters and Imo State Judiciary Complex – with monies paid for each of them in billions.
He added that there was the need to get the architectural designs from the state ministry of works to confirm his statement.
Also, the commission observed that the former Principal Secretary received several billions of naira from the office of the Accountant-General of the state which were not tied to any projects.
The commission discovered from the records that on May 21, 2014 alone, Obi received N5 billion, N2 billion, N1 billion, N800 million and several others same day without any being tied to any project.
In response, Obi insisted that the majority of the payments made from his office were tied to contracts, stressing however that any money given to his office had 100 per cent approval of the Governor.